I Made A Ladder!

Yes, I did.

Please note that I did not title this post “how to make a ladder”.

This was for my daughter’s play set in the back yard, which has had my 6-foot stepladder leaning against it for a few weeks now.

I started by leaning a 6-foot length of redwood against the play set to figure out what angle the ladder should lean at.

Ladder
This was close enough to 30-degrees, so I used 30 as my number.
I cut two lengths of redwood to length with matching 30-degree cuts on the top and bottom edges.
Ladder

Then I used a tape measure to mark intervals on both pieces to note where the center of each step should be.
Ladder

I used the table saw and the miter gauge to cut slots at 30-degrees to make the edges of a mortise; and then used a router to freehand cut the insides out (working carefully, the kirf of the table saw cut is enough of a buffer to rout this out freehand).
Ladder
Ladder

Since I’m not very good at measuring, the mortises were all too narrow, so I slapped together a little tenoning jig to trim the ends of the steps (this was easier than trying to cut all the mortises a little wider).
Ladder
Ladder
Ladder

I successfully got all the steps installed on one rail of the ladder (glue and screws), and then realized that I was not going to be able to get all of the tenons to line up on the other rail. There were little imperfections in the wood and construction, and all together across all the steps this was enough to make it impossible to line everything up at once.

So I made a little router jig (read: “I cut a piece of plywood”) to shave a little more wood off each tenon’s width (the tricky part is that the steps were already installed on one side).
Ladder

Meanwhile I was doing a lot of stepping over and around the half-assembled ladder and managed to catch the corner of a step with the underside of my knee…
ladder

REALLY?!?! Not only am I supposed to wear “close-toed shoes” in the garage, but now I have to wear pants too?!

Next you’re going to say I should be wearing gloves!
Lathe compound repair

Whatever.

Ladder

In any case, that last bit of adjusting with the router worked, and I finished the ladder… and then put on some pants and ate dinner.

Shh! The Baby’s Sleeping!

My daughter is 1.5 years old and goes to bed around 7pm.

I get home from work around 5:30pm and after dinner, play time, and bath time, 7pm comes too quickly.

I’m not complaining that I don’t get enough time to play with my daughter, I’m complaining that I can’t make any loud noises after 7pm.

When she’s asleep, I can’t use the  table saw, circular saw, air compressor, bench grinder, angle grinder, sander, router, impact driver, or shop vac.

This cramps my style.

Want to break down plywood sheets? Can’t. Want to rip a 2×4? Can’t. Want to clean up the garage? No. But even if I wanted to, I can’t.

I do have some power tools that are a bit quieter that I can use after curfew.

My bandsaw, scroll saw, jig saw, milling machine, lathe, drill press, and hand tools are all available (although hammers are iffy).

Over the course of my pergola project, I have made extensive use of my hand saw and chisels to trim posts and timbers at night… in the cold… while it was raining… barefoot… uphill both ways.

Last night I needed to cut a 1.25-inch wide channel 1-inch deep along the length of a 4×4 post 40-inches long.

The tool for the job was the table saw with a dado stack, or the router table with a spiral cutter. But since it was 8pm, these were off limits. What was available was the milling machine.

I haven’t found a lot of examples of people using their milling machines for wood, but in my experience they work very well.

Since the post was 40-inches long and my milling machine only moves 18-inches on the y-axis I had to clamp the post in place in three different positions in the vise to cut the full length, but it worked really well.

The process was simple:

    1. move the table all the way to the left
    2. clamp the post in the vice with the start of the post near the cutter

Milling Wood

    1. turn on the milling machine and turn it up to full speed
    2. crank the handle to move the table to the right as fast as you can
    3. widen the cut with a second pass

Milling Wood

  1. repeat as necessary, shifting the post to the right in the vice each time until the full length is cut.

Milling Wood

The milling machine spins very slowly compared to a router (2000RPM versus 25000RPM, but the vise holds the piece securely and I was able to make full-depth cuts with a 3/4-inch end mill without bogging the milling machine down at all.
Milling Wood

Granted, I was cutting douglas fir, but my experiments with oak have not turned out any differently. Apparently wood just isn’t much of a challenge for metal-working machines.

And it only took about 8-minutes to cut the channel in the board, including setup time, which is really not bad.

Plus I didn’t wake the baby!

Full disclosure: when I turned off the milling machine my daughter was crying, but I’m reasonably certain that was coincidental.

Del Mar

Precision Preschmision.

When it comes to manufacturing process, there is a direct relationship between precision and cost: the more precise the product, the more expensive it is.

The reason for this is simple: making precise products requires the use of even more precise tools, and it requires additional steps to measure and verify that the accuracy is within tolerance.

This applies to the home shop as well.

If you want to work precisely, and repeatably, you need to set up your tools perfectly, you need to measure and verify your results, and you need to plan your moves ahead of time, to make sure your plans for assembly and finishing allow you to maintain the accuracy of the components in the finished product.

All accuracy takes time, but there are two different classifications of precision in my mind, and one matters far more than the other.

  • Absolute Precision: making components exactly 3-inches long, or exactly 45-degrees
  • Relative Precision: making components that fit together exactly, with little concern for absolute dimensions

For example: I can make a table with a top that is exactly 6-feet long and 2.5-feet wide, made from 5 planks that are exactly 0.5-feet wide and 6-feet long: this table looks nice, is well made, and is absolutely precise.

OR: I can make a table that is about 6 feet long and about 2.5-feet wide, made with planks that are all the same length and width: The end result looks the same, and has the same quality, but all of my “measurements” are really just making sure the parts fit together. This is relative precision.

Sometimes absolute precision matters: In mass production you need to be able to provide predictable dimensions so that the packaging and usage can be consistent; replacement parts must meet exacting specifications.

But at home it’s often less important that the part be a certain number of inches, and more important that is fits, works, or looks good, whatever the length ends up being.

This is a liberating principle for me. I don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on Starrett measuring tools to make six cuts of the same length; I can just make the first cut however I like and then keep the setup in place for the next five.

Now, this does require some forethought. If you are planning to repeat the same cut, you need a setup that will allow it. Your bandsaw and tablesaw should have a sturdy fence (but Biesemeyer and Kreg are probably overkill), and you should use stop-blocks and simple jigs where needed.

You may be thinking: “if you’re making something exactly 6-inches wide, isn’t that just as difficultas making something exactly as wide as something close to 6-inches wide?”, and the answer is: …sort of.

You see, I like to start building based on a concept in my brain, and progress through the project adaptively, with the results of each step determining the details of the next.

I don’t want to sit at my computer planning the minutia of the project in Excel when I could be spending valuable time at the bandsaw. And since nothing turns out perfect anyways, my measurements would invariably need adjustment as the project progressed, which then begs the question: Why measure in the first place?

As noted previously, the tape-measure has it’s place, and the blade of any saw should be square to its work surface, but there is nothing magical about hitting the inch within a fraction of a millimeter: These are arbitrary lengths that were made up in antiquity.

The real test of valuable precision is simple: Does it fit? Does it work? Does it look good? If so, it doesn’t matter what the ruler says.

‘They Don’t Make ’em Like They Used To’

“They don’t make ’em like they used to.”

We hear this phrase frequently when people are discussing tools and machines.

The old tools from the 1940’s – 1970’s are generally regarded as the best of their kind. This was the golden age of manufacturing, when men were men, women were men, and cast iron was liberally applied to everything in sight.

Table saws, band saws,  milling machines, shapers, jointers, lathes, pretty much any non-portable tool, you only have to scan a few blogs to find scores of DIYers and professionals proclaiming the virtues of their old machines and descrying the inferiority of the modern equivalents (to see what I mean, just google the phrase “Chinese crap”  …   actually … on second thought, ignore that suggestion).

Some companies recognize this appeal, and work it into their product line. Powermatic, for instance, charges a premium for their tools because they DO make them like they used to (Harbor Freight, on the other hand, sells almost nothing but Chinese sheet metal).

You generally won’t hear me dissenting from this view that older is better. I have an old Rockwell table saw that I fixed up and love to use (although I bought it because it was cheap, not because it was old).

However, I have never bought into the idea fully. It just doesn’t seem possible that modern design and manufacturing techniques could have universally degraded. Granted, I do get pretty upset when tools are advertised as “improved” when all they have done is add a laser; but there must be cases in which the old tool had some deficiency and the newer tools have corrected it.

This brings me to my latest Craigslist experience.

I was browsing through the current tool postings when I came across something I had never seen: a 1940’s scroll saw.

1940's Dunlop Scroll Saw

It was big, heavy, had a good motor, and was only $30 so I bought it, thinking I could tune it up and replace my current scroll saw.

I got it home and started to take it apart.

The first thing I noticed, was that the blade was “tensioned” by a spring loaded plunger at the top. There was no mechanical linkage between the lower and upper blade mounts, which meant that the tool could ONLY cut on the down stroke. Which meant that many modern blades with a mix of down and up cutting teeth could not be used with this tool, and the blade had to be thick and rigid enough to not bend when being pushed through a cut.

1940's Dunlop Scroll Saw - top
This was the first setback but I continued to break down the tool still thinking there may be hope.

I took off the cover for the lower housing and saw two things:

  1. The mechanism to to convert the rotation of the motor to the raising and lowering of the blade was a heavily lubed set of slides, not the ball-bearing + rod and piston design I had expected. 
  2. The housing was full of oil!

1940's Dunlop Scroll Saw - reservoir
I couldn’t believe it! This thing was so inefficient and high-friction that it used an oil reservoir  to keep the parts from overheating and wearing out!

Either that or this was an extraordinarily rare four-stroke internal-combustion scroll saw.

As I did a little more digging and research, I found that these old scroll saws are really not comparable to the new ones.

Because the blade cannot be tensioned, the blades must be thick and rigid (relatively), so they cannot be used for delicate scroll work or tight curves which, in my opinion, are the only reason scroll saws exist.

It occurred to me that this tool was basically an upside-down, non-portable jigsaw that could not do anything my band saw could not do better, and which was unable to keep pace with my smaller modern scroll saw.

They don’t make them like they used to, and it’s a good thing (at least for scroll saws). Since it was only $30, I don’t feel too bad about picking a lemon. Plus I got a nice little motor and I can probably re-purpose the cast-iron table from the saw. Otherwise, this is scrap metal, and I don’t feel guilty about its unceremonious demise.

It lived a long life (72 years), but I cannot imagine it ever brought joy or even marginal satisfaction to anyone that used it. It’s just a miserable old tool.

May it rust in peace.

Table Saw Dust Collection Concept

The Rockwell 10″ Contractor saw I own has an open frame and an external motor hanging off the back, making efficient dust collection an issue because controlling the airflow is next to impossible.

I have a friend with a similar saw on an open frame, but his saw’s motor is more contained, so he doesn’t have the challenge of  plugging a hole that allows the motor to pivot as the blade is tilted to make a beveled cut.

I may still try to close off the cabinet and plug the holes to set up a more traditional dust collection arrangement, but I have an idea I’d like to try out first

Here’s what I’m thinking: I might be able to get effective collection by attaching a “fender” of sorts around the blade under the table. If I attach this fender to the arbor assembly (similar to how I have mounted the riving knife) then I can keep it in close proximity to the blade, which should make for very effective dust  collection.

I made a concept drawing in Sketchup to work through some kinks in my mind:

I like the idea, but I still need to figure out if it will be practical to mount this to the arbor assembly to have it move vertically with the blade, or if I should just attach it to the horizontal rails so that it will tilt with the blade and motor, but will not respond to the depth of the height of the blade.

I’ll keep you posted.

Table Saw Extension: Plugging the Hole

When I doubled the size of my table saw by adding a second table top from another old saw, I had a hole in the middle of the added segment where the saw blade insert would have gone originally.

I thought about making a blank insert to fill the hole, but then I thought I could make it more useful but using it as storage for my stock insert, which I will use when I need to make beveled cuts (my zero-clearance insert prevents tilting the blade, so I need to swap the insert if I need a beveled cut).

Since the stock insert is a relatively thin piece of metal, I partially filled the hole with a piece of 1/2″ plywood so the insert would sit flush with the surface.

I had to drill out the plywood under the insert’s holes because the underside of the insert is bent downwards around these holes (basically the negative of the countersink in the top of the insert) causing the insert to sit a little too high.

After drilling the holes, the insert sat a tiny bit too low, so I shimmed it up with a few pieces of duct tape.  I also used a Sharpie to color the wood under the openings in the insert, just to make it look a little better when it’s all put together:

Now I have a place to keep my stock insert, and I don’t have a big hole in my table saw top:

So pretty.

Now I need to make something with the saw…

Table Saw: Support and Storage

My table saw is huge… but unstable.

I noted near the end of my previous post on the topic, that I would need to revisit the saw, since it is top-heavy and in danger of tipping to the right due to a lack of support under the expanded table top. So that is how I spent my free time this weekend.

I wanted to continue using my table saw’s mobile base, so I needed to find a way to extend it to support the far-right end of my table. I decided the best way to do this would be to install a plywood floor in the mobile base and then install a support from this floor to hold up the right end of the saw.

For some reason I thought 1/2″ plywood would be sufficient, so I measured out and cut the necessary pieces with my circular saw (I used an offset straight-edge to guide the saw).

I was planning to use some angle iron to extend the mobile base frame, but was having trouble figuring out how to attach it to the existing frame without having to redesign the whole thing.

I was also starting to realize that the 1/2″ plywood was far too thin to make a stable floor for the saw, as it would bow significantly in the middle (the mobile base only supports the corners).

To solve both of these problems I figured I needed a rigid floor that I could simply attach the ends of the mobile base to, instead of trying to make the mobile base itself support the length of the floor.

I happened to have a piece of 3/4″ plywood on hand that was about the right size, and I screwed it to the bottom of the 1/2″ piece I had already prepared. This alone was pretty sturdy, but I decided to further reinforce it by attaching the angle iron to the sides.

This made for a very solid floor that did not bend at all when I attached the mobile base ends to it and tested it by standing in the middle.

After wrestling the saw onto the base, I secured it by clamping it down with pieces of plywood screwed to the main floor.

In order to support the right end of the table, I built a box out of the 1/2″ plywood to act as a single leg.

I glued and brad-nailed the box together and installed it with a combination of glue and brad nails on the bottom and an angle iron bracket on the top.

The table saw is now fully supported and the extra space on the right side is perfect for housing my compound miter saw (I had considered putting my shop vac here, but then I bought the compound miter…). I’ll probably put a shelf above the miter saw to keep other miscellaneous tools and scraps, but that can wait. For now I am happy that I have sturdy table saw with enough surface area and fence capacity to do anything I need to (and plenty of things I don’t).

Note: In the pictures the saw appears to be leaning to the right, but this is mostly an optical illusion, and partially because I should adjust the feet of the mobile base, but a slight tilt toward the fence won’t impact performance or stability, in fact, it might help both.

The Incredible Expanding Table Saw

I have mentioned, in the past, my addiction to Craigslist. At this very moment I am waiting to hearing back about a JET pen lathe… but I’ll write about that if the seller calls me back.

This post is about my table saw. I picked it up originally from a Craigslist seller in semi-working condition for a mere $50, figuring it was worth the investment even if all I got was a pastime for a week or two trying to get it into shape.

More recently I noticed someone posting the same saw (well, the Delta version of my Rockwell saw), in much worse condition, without a motor or a fence, and missing its stand, for $300.

This was an absurdly high price, so I just laughed about it. A couple weeks later it was reposted for $200; and then again in a similar amount of time for $150.

At this point I decided to reply to the add, telling the seller about the deal I had gotten and that he would probably need to lower his price to move the saw. His reply: “$50 and it’s yours”.

At first I just laughed about it. I didn’t want the saw, I was just trying to help the guy out. But the more I thought about it, I began to feel like I might actually buy it. My rationale was this: It had its original stamped steel extensions, which I like better than the aluminum ones, and what if I could use the second table top as an extension as well?

The best extension wings you can buy are precision ground cast iron, so why not bolt a precision ground table top to the side of my existing top? Plus there was the chance I might need a replacement part at some point in the future… who knows?

So, I bought it.

It was in pretty rough shape, very rusty, but the wings were still straight.

I started working away at the rust with steel wool, but quickly moved to 150 grit sand paper on my random orbit sander.

I can hear you wincing and judging me. After all, the people on the woodworking forums all say that you’ll screw up your top with anything more than light wet-sanding with 400+ grit sandpaper.

However, on the metalworking forums, they seem to think you have to be very intentional to screw up a cast-iron surface significantly; and I wasn’t about to invest several weeks of elbow grease (yes, elbow grease is measured in time-based increments) in a cast iron top that I had picked up for $50.

I am happy to report that the sandpaper did not do any measurable harm.

The rust on the other hand…

The surface is definitely pitted and etched, but I think that it is acceptable over all: wood moves across it easily and stays flat and stable.

I treated the extension wings to the same process and got the same results.

So I had a usable set of extension wings and a second table for very little money and a few hours of elbow grease.

If you have read my post regarding my New table saw fence then you’ll recall that the space between the flush-mounted front and back fence rails was too narrow to fit my old extension wings. It was also, apparently, too small to fit the new extension wings and the new table top. This is due to my Rockwell table having a small “step” inwards about 1/2″ below the surface.

So even though the actual surface size is identical on the Rockwell and Delta saws, the fence mounts differently. So I removed the fence rails and re-installed them with a couple of washers stacked beneath each mounting bolt. This brought the fence out to the right width and allowed me to install the “new” extra wing and table top after drilling holes that lined up with the mounting holes in my fence rails.

One additional modification was to drill out the threaded mounting holes on the new table top. This was to allow me to pass a bolt through them and into the extension-mounting holes on my saw top (luckily these lined up perfectly)

The end result:

I’ll be making a blank insert to cover the hole for the non-existent insert on the second top. I had also thought about filling the extra miter slots with some aluminum bar stock I have, but I’ll wait and see, I can imagine it being useful to have extra miter slots.

I will be building a plywood cabinet underneath the new table, just to make sure it doesn’t tip over, and I’m thinking this may be a great place to house my shop vac.

So it’s not quite this:

But it’s as close as I’ll get with $100 worth of Craigslist purchases and an aftermarket fence.

Oh, and the guy emailed me back about the JET pen lathe: he already sold it to someone else. (I should have been checking Craigslist more frequently)

New Table Saw Fence

My table saw is an old Rockwell 10″ contractor saw, which is an excellent saw, but one of the first things people tend to do with these saws is upgrade the fence.

The factory fence tends to be difficult to keep parallel to the blade, easy to push out of alignment, and has a limited capacity (the maximum distance between the fence and the blade is about 24″, so longer cuts require using the miter gauge or making the cut freehand).

One of the previous owners of my saw knew this, and so upgraded the fence… to a factory fence from a different saw. I’m guessing his buddy had a saw with a slightly better stock fence, and gave him the stock fence when he upgraded to a better one. The “upgraded” fence on my saw had a better cut capacity, but was still difficult to square and easy to push out of alignment, and the rails were too tall, causing them to interfere with my miter gauge (the top of the guide rails were higher than the bottom of the miter slot). So upgrading the fence was still on my to-do list.

I had been researching tables saws ans fences and I knew that the gold-standard for accurate fences was the Biesemeyer T-Square fence, but these are expensive, and although I use my table saw often, I am not a professional cabinet maker, so I couldn’t justify buying one of these fences.

After reading reviews and comments on all the t-square style fence systems I could find, I settled on the Delta 36-T30 30″ T2 Fence System, and found the lowest price on Tools-Plus.com.

I used the new Amazon.com Universal Wish List plugin for Chrome to add the fence to my wishlist, and my lovely wife bought it for me for my birthday.

Some of the negative reviews for the new fence had complained about having to drill new holes in the fence rails to install it on their table saw because the pre-drilled holes did not line up, so I was expecting to put some effort and ingenuity into this installation, but first things first, I had to remove the old fence.

The old fence was fairly simply installed. Its rails consisted of parallel tubes on the front and the back of the saw, separated from the table with spacers (the spacers came in to play later in an unexpected way) and bolted directly into threaded holes in the edge of the cast iron table top. I think just removing the old fence was a significant improvement.

Upon removal I noticed that the holes in the table top were significantly larger than the remaining original holes. The previous owner had drilled out the original holes and re-threaded them to fit the “upgraded” fence, so I now had holes that were too large for the mounting screws that came with the new fence. But I figured I could find a way around this.

The new fence came with a large number of screws, washers, nuts, and bolts, and when I read through the directions, I couldn’t find a need for all of them, so I decided to just use them as I saw necessary and see if I could make the fence work without drilling any new holes.

Luckily, although the holes in my table top were too large for the mounting screws, they did line up with the holes in the fence, and I was able to put a nut of the back side of the hole in the table top in place of the threads in the cast iron itself.

I then adjusted the rail until it was parallel to the table top and started working on the back rail.

 

On the back, for whatever reason, the bolts for mounting the rail were the correct size to thread directly into the larger holes left by the old fence. I was happy about this but ran into a new problem: I didn’t have the required 8mm Allen wrench to tighten these bolts.

I dug through my tools and scraps and eventually found a small nut that perfectly fit in the head of the bolt. I mounted the nut onto a small bolt and tightened it down with a slightly larger nut.

This assembly acted as an adapter: the 8mm nut fit into the 8mm Allen bolt, and the 9mm nut fit into a 9mm socket, so I could ratchet the bolt into place.

After finally installing the back rail, I checked it for parallel before moving on to the next step.

 

I had intended to re-install the extension wings, but at this point I realized that the spacers (mentioned earlier) that held on the old guide rails, were not used with this new fence system, and so the distance between the front and back rails was too small to fit extension wings.

This was disappointing, but I have been considering making my own extension wings, so I figured I’ll just make that my next project and set the old ones aside for now (I may add some washers to the rails as spacers to allow the wings to fit, but I haven’t decided yet, since I don’t really like the open aluminum wings much anyways.

The next step was to install the guide (square tube) for the fence itself. This was fairly simple, but the trick is to make sure it is parallel to the rail it is bolted to (and thus parallel to the edge of the table top). By tightening down one end, and taking a measurement, and then adjusting the other end to match, getting the guide parallel to the rail.

 

The remaining steps were fairly quick, and involved setting the fence in place, adjusting the various set screws in the fence until the fence was parallel to the miter slot and blade and square to the table top, and calibrating the measurement indicator. On this last step, I realized that my fence system was 2″ too far to the right for the attached measuring tape on the guide, so that when the fence was against the blade, the indicator was 2″ to the left of zero. The only way to fix this is to move or replace the measuring tape, and since I’ve seen adhesive measuring tapes before for pretty cheap, I’m not to worried about this for now… but it is a little sad.

 

Despite the various complications, I was able to complete this installation in about an hour, and the result is a sturdy, accurate fence that is easy to adjust and a big improvement over the fence the saw had when I bought it.

Zero-Clearance Insert

After completing the riving knife modification, I needed to replace the blade cover insert to accommodate the knife’s position behind the saw blade.

I had been using the stock insert, which has a full opening to accommodate a dado stack. This setup does not support the wood fibers along the edges of the cut, and will allow tearout along the ends of the cut pieces, resulting in a frayed edge on the final product, particularly when cutting across the grain.

A zero-clearance insert has a slot that is only as wide as the blade itself, and thus the wood fibers are fully supported all the way up the the blade itself (almost as if with a pair of scissors), making for the cleanest possible cut.

Not only are zero-clearance inserts preferable to factory inserts, they are the easiest type of custom insert to make since the slot for the blade is created by simply cutting through the blank insert with the blade installed in the table saw.

I started with a set of phenolic zero clearance kit from Rockler. This kit is about $30 and contains two rectangular blanks from which you can cut inserts to fit your saw. I could have purchased a pre-shaped insert but they are more expensive ($30 for one insert) and this seemed like a fun project.

Per the instructions that came with the phenolic blanks, I started by tracing the stock insert and cutting the the blank close to the final size. The instructions recommend using a band saw for this cut, but I don’t have one yet (regularly refreshing my search on Craigslist) so I used my scroll saw. This was marginally successful, but I burned up a good blade and the blank was jumping all over the place. Honestly I think this step would be better handled with a hacksaw if a band saw is not available, or at least by switching the blade on the scroll saw to one without any reverse teeth.

The idea of the first step is to leave minimal material for the the router bit to remove in the next step, which is to use a copy-bit and the stock insert to finalize the shape.

I used turner’s tape (fancy double-sided tape) to attach the stock insert as a template to the rough-cut blank and used a 1/4″ copy-bit on my router table to remove the extra material and bring the outer diameter of the phenolic blank to its final shape.

I almost had a minor disaster while doing this. I noticed a slight change in the sound coming from the router bit, so I shut off the router and realized that I the bit was slowly lifting out of the collet and was begining to cut into the metal of the stock insert. There was no visible damage to the router bit (Carbide is tough!), so I re-seated the bit and really tightened it down. I was able to finish the routing without any other issues. On a side note, I’m now convinced that I need to set up some dust collection on my router table…

The phenolic blank is thicker than necessary for my saw, so I set up my drill press with a large forstner bit to remove enough material for the insert to sit flush.

Once I had achieved the correct thickness, I drilled out and countersunk the holes for mounting the insert.

I stripped out one of the screws while testing the fit, which gave me a chance to use a screw extractor bit that I had never tried before.

The extractor worked well enough, bit it really guts the screw so I cut a slot in the screw to re-use it as a flat head until I find a replacement.

After this, I re-installed the blade on the table saw and cut the slot in the new insert. This had to be done in 3 stages:

      • I very cautiously lowered the insert on to spinning blade to remove enough material be able to set the insert fully flush with the table top with the blade installed. Since the insert is unsecured, it is very important to do this slowly from BEHIND the saw. This way if the insert is ejected it flies away from you. since, at this point in the process, the top of the insert is completely symmetrical, I actually started cutting with the insert backwards and had to flip it around and start the cut over:
      • I secured the insert and raised the blade with the table saw running until the blade reach its full depth:
      • I extended the cut to make room for the riving knife. I actually did this with a hand saw, Stanley FatMax:

With everything finally installed, I quickly cross-cut a piece of rift-sawn white oak to see what sort of cut quality I would get. I made the cut freehand, with the blade set too deep,, but still got a decent quality cut with minimal tearout.

I’m happy with the results, and I am done with this project.